Ten patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and 13 normal control subjects received intravenous infusions of 2 X 10(-6) g/kg of clonidine and normal saline on separate days. Responses to the drug relating to plasma growth hormone (GH), 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG), heart rate, blood pressure, and several symptoms were determined. Additionally, platelet alpha 2-adrenoreceptor binding was measured in most of the subjects. GH, MHPG, blood pressure, and heart rate responses to clonidine did not differ between groups. As expected, patients reported more symptoms than normal subjects, and clonidine was sedating for both groups. Patients did not differ from normal subjects in the symptom response to clonidine. The maximum number of binding sites (Bmax) for tritiated clonidine was significantly greater in OCD patients than in normals. This pattern of alpha 2-adrenoreceptor status is different than the patterns in major depression and panic anxiety.